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*Section 2 – Kingdom Conduct

Twenty-five –  The Golden Rule

 “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).

In a brilliant assertion that practically sums up the teachings of the entire Old Testament, Jesus instructs listeners to treat others in the manner they’d prefer for themselves. Unlike religious teachings outside the Christian faith, which base morality on negative sounding “don’ts,” this principle describes an active, intentional lifestyle of doing for and giving to our fellowman. Believers should treat others with fairness and sacrificial love, constantly asking, “How would I like to be treated in this case?” As we learn to approach one another with this question, we learn the meaning of loving our neighbor as ourselves (see Matthew 19:19).

Surely the legalistic and unloving Pharisees were shocked by Christ’s radical claim. They spent decades poring over the intricacies of the law, the system of justice, and the concept of equivalent retribution. In claiming that neighborly love encapsulates God’s Old Testament teachings, Christ pointed out that respectful behavior satisfies a significant portion of the Decalogue. If followed, the Golden Rule removes the need for judgment based upon our offenses towards one another. The Apostle Paul explains:

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:8-10).

Despite its simplicity, no greater foundation for morality exists. Christ founded His kingdom on this code of ethics. Here, then, rests the moral standard by which we must live. As we learn to, “Love the Lord [our] God with all [our] heart[s] and with all [our] soul[s] and with all [our] mind[s] and with all [our] strength” we can do no less (see Mark 12:30).

Imagine the peace enjoyed by a society who regularly practices the “do to others as you would have them do to you” principle. Even atheists, agnostics, or those who believe only in situational ethics find it difficult to deny that this standard would benefit all human relationships. Fatalists, postmodernists, and secular humanists, too—those who deny the need for a defined moral code—are hard pressed to claim that they find no appeal in the thought of fair, loving treatment extended to all. (Remember that one friend who claimed not to believe in moral absolutes at all but felt slighted over the injustice of a stolen wallet?) Humanity possesses an innate sense of fairness. This speaks to the divine origin of doing right and gives evidence for a moral deity: the loving God of the Bible.

The Golden Rule commands that we apply Christ’s love-your-neighbor-as-yourself principle to “everything.” Not in some things but in all things we should lovingly do to others that which is good and right. Consideration and fairness should permeate our lives. In response to a God who draws us to His love, embraces us by His love, and showers undeserved grace on our lives, we should model loving grace to others.

The Apostle John said,

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God … This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:7, 9-11).

As representatives of our loving King and His kingdom, we must project fairness and goodness in all interactions. We should proactively care for, give to, and respond to others with the same grace, mercy, forgiveness, and generosity that God shows us.

The contrarian lifestyle Jesus taught amplifies His glory, images forth His beauty, and draws those who don’t know true love to the only place it exists. As we serve others in love, we point them to life in Christ. 

Apply It.

Review Jesus’ teaching in Mark 12:28-34. Loving God requires that we love others. How might you put the Golden Rule into practice today? Ask God to help you identify a person or situation in your life that could benefit from the “do unto others” approach. Pray for His guidance in applying this kingdom principle.

*This is an excerpt from Captivated by the King and His Kingdom: A Personal Encounter with the Sermon on the Mount published by Crossbooks in 2010. The links for this book are:

Amazon in book form – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-Encounter/dp/1615073418/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-1    

Amazon Kindle – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-ebook/dp/B004KAA9UC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-2

Barnes and Noble in book form – http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Captivated-by-the-King-and-His-Kingdom/Linden-C-Wolfe/e/9781615073412/?itm=3&USRI=captivated+by+the+king

Other eReader formats – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/33572

If you follow along with this category (albeit backwards) by the same name as the book, eventually, Lord willing, we will have walked through the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse in a devotional commentary approach. I pray that this series impacts you as much as it did me as I studied this passage and wrote this book. Grace to you!

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You probably have heard the hubbub about Pat Robertson’s outlandish advice to a spouse whose wife has Alzheimer’s. In case you haven’t, here’s CNN’s account of the controversy: 

Squaring Pat Robertson’s Alzheimer’s remarks with the Bible – CNN Belief Blog – CNN.com Blogs

We all know of Pat Robertson’s notorious proclivity to hoof-in-mouth’s disease. CNN’s report is just another example of his too often thoughtless comments made without biblical rationale. But, according to this article, he refused to recant these absurd and cruel comments. Might pride be a factor? Or just ignorance?  Maybe he has early stages dementia. You be the judge. Instead of railing against this view that is so asinine most atheists would call it inhumane, I’d like to take this opportunity to discuss how Christians should minister to those affected by this horrible disease. For what it’s worth, my views clash with the televangelist’s. Here they are:

  • We must try to see all people (even those with Alzheimer’s) as God would see them. They are His creation, worthy of dignity and love, and have emotional, physical, and spiritual needs. Most critically, Alzheimer’s patients and their families need the hope that can only come from the Gospel of Jesus.
  • Never forget the Golden Rule: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). If you were to have this terrible disease, how would you prefer to be treated? Would you want to be abandoned, forgotten, neglected, and unloved? Truth be told, it could eventually be you that suffers from dementia and its sister cognitive diseases – ABC News reports that there are  5.4 million Alzheimer’s patients in the US today and this number is expected to grow dramatically as the Baby Boomers age.
  • Realize that everyone is your neighbor and Christ command us to love and care for them. The Parable of the Good Samaritan should be etched in our hearts (see Luke 10:25-37). When asked who our neighbor is, Jesus shared this story. Christ’s message should compel us to serve the hurting and needy. His final words of this passage punctuate His teaching with, “go, and do likewise.”
  • Remember that the patient never suffers alone (unless folks take Pat Robertson’s advice). Families hurt along with their loved ones inflicted with this demoralizing malady. They need our love, prayers, and support along with the primary victims of Alzheimer’s. These family members could use our Christ-centered love and encouragement.
  • Do practical things to help ease the burden, pressures, and pain that are usually associated with such suffering. This article gives some very useful tips on what we can do to help both the patient and their relatives beyond just prayer and encouraging words – ABC’s of Alzheimer’s Ministry.
  • And, maybe most importantly, be motivated by the truth that loving and ministering to an Alzheimer’s patient and their loved ones is tantamount to loving and ministering to Jesus Himself. For the full impact of this truth, only the complete passage will do:

“And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:33-46).

My wife, Rebekah, who works in a nursing home, has forever had a heart of compassion for those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s. In many ways she considers this her calling, her ministry. She has many stories of those, and their families, who suffer with these diseases. One seems most appropriate here:

“One of our residents is in late stages Alzheimer’s and barely knows she is in the world. But, like her, well into his 80’s and feeble himself, her husband comes every day. He arrives early, kisses her gently. and sits with her all day. He talks to her, reads to her, and when she becomes distraught or agitated he hugs her with a long, loving, comforting embrace. At the end of the day he kisses her again, toddles to his car, and returns home. But he is always there, every day for hours. It’s one of the most Christ-like things I have ever witnessed.”

And don’t we agree? I’m confident Jesus does! Then let’s “go and do likewise.”

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